The façade of this basilica closes off the elegant cobbled piazza San Simpliciano that can be reached from Corso Garibaldi, while to the right of the building space widens out onto the small leafy Piazza Paolo VI, an ideal place for a peaceful outdoor pause.
San Simpliciano was one of the earliest churches built in Milano. It is the last of the four basilicas that Sant'Ambrogio appointed in the outlying areas of the city to accommodate the growing flock of worshippers and, as he had done for the other churches, he chose a cemetery located along the road to Como in an area frequented by prostitutes - this is why it was dedicated to virgins - to erect his new church called Basilica Virginum.
The bishop of the city requested the construction of this basilica (in the fourth century) but it was completed under his successor San Simpliciano who, before his death in 401, asked to be buried therein and, successively, the building was named after him.
The church evokes several significant episodes of Ambrosian religious history and is also of significant artistic and architectural interest. The temple has undergone several renovations and extensions over time, the most notable of which is the radical Romanesque reworking in the twelfth century. The discovery of the origin of the early Christian temple is relatively recent.
Although modified over time, the harmonious and austere architecture of the early centuries of Christianity can still be admired and the ancient church is still decipherable in the present one. The interior, which has three naves of equal height, is renowned for the fresco by Bergognone, L’incoronazione della Vergine (The Coronation of the Virgin). The sides of the basilica and the apse are early Christian and were interspersed by large windows which were concealed at a later date. The majestic apse and the octagonal lantern are Romanesque.
The singular middle portal with the two pairs of lions and front arches on the façade dates from the twelfth century, while the smaller portals and the mullioned and triple lancet windows were constructed in 1870.
Today the church regularly hosts organ concerts.